No One Likes Bill de Blasio

Vanity Fair profile littered with unflattering quotes

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio / AP

From political reporters to Democratic operatives to Harlem preachers, few in New York City seem impressed by Bill de Blasio two years into his mayorship.

A new profile in Vanity Fair features less-than-flattering quotes from a number of named and unnamed sources. They bandy about terms such as "lazy," "micro-manager," "sanctimonious," and "racist."

Some of those who offer praise for the mayor in the story temper it with mild criticism of his style.

Some quotes from the story, and their sources:

  • From "a journalist who has covered the city for 40 years": "Most whites I know are left of center, and virtually every one of them can’t stand the guy—and these are all Obama-walks-on-water types … This sanctimonious arrogance [he has] just irritates people. But it’s more than that. There’s no sense this man has any interest, unlike Bloomberg, in the nuts and bolts of how the city works. He’s lazy. He shows up late. He insults people by keeping them waiting, and he shrugs it off—’Oh, it’s not important I’m here on time; it matters what happens when I show up.’ But it does matter. Part of me wonders if he really wants to be mayor. I wonder if the whole idea bores him, if all he really cares about is being a national figure on progressive issues."
  • From former Bloomberg adviser Michael Moss: "I don’t know whether he’s lazy … I do know he’s the first mayor in recent history to call in sick. O.K.? He doesn’t have any of that natural comfort with the details of government. People want him to reflect the tone of the city, but his agenda is one agenda and nothing else: income inequality and affordable housing. He doesn’t care about parks or potholes or anything else. He has two issues [income inequality and affordable housing] and two issues only."
  • From "a person who deals regularly with the mayor’s office on behalf of an organization he runs": "The problem with de Blasio is that he’s a micro-manager. Everything has to go up to the top, to him. And his people, though they all seem well meaning, are often not as efficient as they might be or as qualified for their posts as you might wish."
  • From "a longtime political operative who admires the mayor": "I’ve known Bill a long time, and he is really more like a liberal professor or political activist than he is actually a mayor. If you look at mayors around the country, look at Rahm in Chicago, Garcetti in L.A., they tend to be more nonpartisan than not. They tend to be problem solvers: ‘What’s the problem? What’s the solution?’ Bill comes from a very different perspective. When Bill is presented with a problem, I always imagine him musing, ‘Hmm, what’s my political philosophy on this?’ He’s not a natural manager—I mean, that’s an understatement."
  • From "a longtime Democratic consultant who worked in the Koch and Dinkins administrations": "Every mayor has a troubled transition, but eventually he learns … I wish I could see some progress toward that. I wish I could see better people around him. There is no steady hand behind the wheel in City Hall. I wish I could see more attention to governance issues. And I don’t see it. I’m not alone. It’s a common view among people I talk to."
  • From an "operative and longtime acquaintance of the mayor’s": "The founding myth of the de Blasio administration is that people heard his transcendent vision about income inequality and there was a mandate for that … when in fact there was a win by default. He was elected because he was running against three Democrats and a Republican who ran a shitty campaign … He has taken this as a mandate for running this city on what he campaigned on. Bill thinks he was elected on income inequality, and he wasn’t. I think he misunderstands the electorate."
  • From Calvin Butts, the influential reverend of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church: "De Blasio, in the words of the Stevie Wonder song, ‘you ain’t done nothing.’ … I can’t even get in to see his commissioners. I’ve built thousands of units of affordable housing. I think I met with his office of economic development once. I’ve created the first high school in the black community in 50 years, in Harlem, and I can’t even meet the [schools] chancellor. His administration is disorganized. You hear these complaints from other people, not just me. I think he feels comfortable in whoever is advising him that the black community is in his pocket. It’s not. If he’s really with us, stick with us. I need a John Brown [the white abolitionist who advocated armed insurrection] type. I feel strange saying this, but ‘People in the black community, please, don’t be taken for a ride by this man.’ … We’ve seen liberal racists before … I’m not going to call him a racist just yet. I just think that his posture shows great disrespect for the black and brown communities. Great disrespect. I will not call him the r-word. But it’s terrible now. It’s condescending."

De Blasio garnered some praise from others quoted in the story, such as Hamilton James, the president of investment firm Blackstone.

"I understand why people are concerned, because some of what he says is a little scary," James said. "But can they object to universal pre-K? Of course not. [His deals with] the unions? He’s actually cut deals that are better than most of us thought he could get. He’s gotten an awful lot done in a short time."

However, James adds later in the story:

Sometimes he wades into issues that are not all that substantive, which people get agitated about … The Uber thing jumps to mind. He doesn’t have to do that. The horse-drawn carriage is another thing. A totally unnecessary controversy. I would like him to be a little more like a C.E.O., you know, let your team take care of these things, take some time, make some recommendations, and these things would just fade away.